Hard to believe we’re already in the second half of June, but as the bats heat up — and the injuries pile up — finding quality arms off the scrap heap can be a challenge. Fortunately, we have two NL-only candidates this week who offer intriguing upside and offer help for those looking to plug rotation holes.
Vance Worley / SP / Pittsburgh Pirates
1 percent Yahoo / .5 percent ESPN / 3 percent CBS ownership
You sort of expected this one, didn’t you? Worley a) has functioned as a working definition of “mediocre” over the past few years, b) is coming off a strong debut to his season and c) seems to have a rotation spot in Pittsburgh, at least until Francisco Liriano comes back from an oblique strain. In other words, he has all the qualifications for being waiver wire material.
But those of us in deep leagues could always use another arm, and since Worley deserves a fair shake, let’s review the three above points in reverse order. Liriano strained his left oblique last week, an injury that can sideline guys for several weeks, and it’s not as if the left-hander is a stranger to the disabled list with a reputation for staying healthy. In other words, Worley, barring disaster, should have a rotation spot for at least a month, especially when injuries have forced the Bucs to use the likes of Brandon Cumpton and Jeff Locke every fifth day. On Sunday, Worley looked sharp against the Marlins, putting up seven shutout innings while striking out five and walking none. Those strikeouts and walks would look good for anyone, but they’re especially encouraging for a guy who posted an awesome 43:4 K/BB ratio in 46 Triple-A innings this year.
As for being mediocre, well, Worley actually posted a negative WAR (-0.2) during a disastrous 2013 season for the Twins, and he’s seen both his average fastball velocity and SwStr% decline year-to-year since he broke into the big leagues four seasons ago. To be fair, Worley blamed some of his struggles last year on elbow surgery during the previous offseason and biceps tendinitis early in the year, but his value as a source of strikeouts is clearly, ahem, limited. The good news is Worley brings with him a reputation for inducing groundballs, has a career 3.0 BB/9 over 333.1 innings and, it must be said, is still just 26 years old. As with most deep league waiver wire contestants, Worley’s value — such as it is after one 2014 start, against a Marlins lineup that’s gone cold this month, no less — is limited to NL-only for the time being. But there are enough good vibes surrounding him right now that he deserves consideration, or, at the very least, owners to think beyond his awful season last year.
Jesse Hahn / SP / San Diego Padres
1 percent Yahoo / 0 percent ESPN / 4 percent CBS ownership
OK, so anyone who pitches against the Mets these days looks like Walter Johnson, and that was no more true on Saturday when Hahn, 24 years old and making just his second major league start, held the Amazins to just one hit over six innings. But Hahn will pick up at least one more start with the possibility of getting more going forward, as Robbie Erlin rehabs from a sore elbow and Tim Stauffer returns to the bullpen, giving Matt Harvey’s old high school teammate some credibility as a waiver wire candidate in deep leagues.
And that’s even before you take a look at this guy’s minor league track record. Originally drafted by the Rays in 2010, he was acquired by San Diego back in January and has produced a 2.42 FIP, 8.8 K/9 and ludicrous 58.6 percent groundball rate in 159.1 minor league innings, though he’s yet to throw a pitch above the Double-A level and enjoyed playing his home games in San Antonio this year, a ballpark that favors pitchers. But scouts have had nice things to say about his stuff, including a fastball that can touch the mid-90s, and he has been tabbed as a guy whose ceiling reaches to that of a No. 2 or 3 starter. Whether he puts it all together out of the gate remains to be seen, but pitching in Petco Park can only help his transition to the major leagues, and with Erlin out for at least another month, Hahn should get an opportunity to help fantasy owners.
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